Getting more people on bikes is an important goal for Auckland in helping to address our emissions, congestion and improve public health. In order to address the emissions part of that, Auckland’s Climate Plan calls for the city to see cycling mode share increase from 0.9% to 7% by 2020 and up to 9% by 2050. Getting large numbers of Aucklanders on bikes is not a pipedream though as over lockdown we witnessed huge numbers of people of all ages out on bikes taking advantage of quiet and safe streets and there are still reports of bike shortages in shops, especially for e-bikes.

COVID helped to further highlight that riding a bike is both desirable by a lot of people but also that the biggest barrier to getting more people on bikes is enabling people to do it safety.

An article in the Herald on Sunday has highlighted one of the challenges we face in achieving that.

A teenage cyclist was again knocked off his bike on Friday night on Auckland’s North Shore – the third time he has been run off the road in two years.

Elliott Henk, 18, was cycling from a friend’s place in Takapuna to his home in Forrest Hill along Lake Pupuke Drive around midnight when a white car raced up behind him.

The occupants were yelling at him and the car honking its horn, before it swerved towards Henk, knocking his handlebars and flipping him on to the tarmac. The car then sped off.

Fortunately Henk only received cuts and bruises, although his bike was quite damaged.

However, it had left him emotionally shaken.

“It was quite scary, but to be honest it is not entirely unusual,” Henk told the Herald on Sunday.

Henk is a keen cyclist and rides around the North Shore streets several times a day as his main method of transport and, as always, when he rides at night wears reflective gear and rides with lights.

But almost every time he gets on the road he experiences some form of aggression.

Usually it is a few honks from drivers, or yelling out the window, but he has twice been driven off the road by angry motorists – once ending up down a gully.

This is an appalling incident and thankfully he’s okay as something like this could easily have ended up much worse. I hope the police are doing something to follow up on this deliberate assault. However, what frustrated me almost as much was the response from Auckland Transport.

AT spokesman Mark Hannan said motorists being aggressive to cyclists was more a police matter because they dealt with on-road behaviour.

“We would encourage all road users to look out for each other and be considerate of others on the road.

“If a cyclist has an issue with a driver they should report the matter to the police.”

The “share the road” message clearly doesn’t work given it’s been spouted for decades and we still have incidents like this. Worse, it clearly shows AT have a long way to go when it comes to initiatives such as Vision Zero. Their website even states (emphasis mine):

Vision Zero, an ethics-based transport safety approach, was developed in Sweden in the late 1990s. It places responsibility on the people who design and operate the transport system to provide a safe system. This is a transport system that is built for human beings, that acknowledges that people make mistakes and human bodies are vulnerable to high-impact forces in the event of a crash. To protect people from forces that can cause traumatic injury we need to look at how the whole system works together to protect all those who use our roads.

And under the section on responsibility, emphasis theirs.

System designers are ultimately responsible for the safety level in the entire system – systems, design, maintenance and use. Everyone needs to show respect, good judgement and follow rules. If injury still occurs because of lack of knowledge, acceptance or ability, then system designers must take further action to prevent people being killed or seriously injured.

Auckland Transport are the system designers, therefore regardless of the incident, by their own words, they’re responsible for delivering safety.

Having safe infrastructure for bikes not only makes it physically safer for those on two wheels, it also reduces abuse from drivers in part because it makes it clear that bikes are meant to be there. It even makes drivers safer.

Yet when it comes to delivering on making things safer for people on bikes, Auckland Transport has failed miserably, delivering fewer kilometres of new cycleway than even their meagre targets call for.

It’s not that they haven’t had any plans. Their board signed off a business case in 2018 for an ambitious programme that would have made a significant difference around Auckland, but they did nothing to implement it and then disbanded their cycling team – and it seems anyone else with a desire to make things better has been systematically driven out of the organisation.

Even what they do delivere is often sup-par. In the article AT point to the cycleway they’ve built from Taharoto Rd to Northcote Point as an example to show they’re doing something. Here’s just a shot of the first random place along the route I jumped to on street view, and it says a lot. We’ve got:

  • Painted lanes that provide zero protection and cars parked on the inside of it.
  • There’s a car parked in the cycle lane, because despite repeatedly showing AT this happens, they keep refusing to put broken yellow lines down on new cycleways. There’s another vehicle parked partially in the lane further up – that happens to be a council vehicle.
  • On the opposite side of the road the lane it just ends at a bus stop

Around the corner on Northcote Rd even this disappears and there are just narrow shared paths that have more in common with a pump track than an urban cycle facility. It even has power poles in the middle of it.

These facilities are only slightly better than those on Taharoto Rd, which it’s possible Elliot was trying to avoid as much as possible, and I can’t blame him – it’s not uncommon to see cars travelling along in one of the five traffic lanes at 60-80km/h (or more) while cyclists get just a thin white line of paint to protect them. The lanes here, like those on the other lake Rd, also happen to stop short of Takapuna itself forcing those on bikes to mix it with vehicles, which can serve to inflame tensions in some.

We know that AT are currently in the process of reviewing the cycling programme and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the outcomes of that. It needs to include both a significant expansion of the network and a way to break through both the internal and external barriers holding them back from delivering on it.

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76 comments

  1. It is incredible how useless AT have been when it comes to cycling in the last few years.

    Cycling is the stain on Shane Ellison’s legacy as Chief Executive.

    1. Suspect there are a couple of other stains on the joke that will pass for Ellison’s legacy. They might inter alia include a failure to implement the New Network as designed (20 minute ‘rapid’ (sic) frequencies ffs); the current collapse of the rail network through a failure to effectively monitor KiwiRail’s sub-par maintenance regime; and the failure to deliver a decarbonised bus fleet. On the other hand, single occupancy car drivers are still being encouraged to spew their carbon emissions into the atmosphere through an expansion of the roading network, a maintenance and expansion of the easy parking regime and a feather-light enforcement programme for violators of the few rules the organisation deigns to acknowledge. Such a legacy; it can’t come soon enough.

  2. Many cyclists can tell a story or two about bad drivers and how these poor drivers have or could have hurt them seriously. I got pushed over to the side of the road by cars tailgating or cut in front just before an intersection by a van/ute.
    It puzzles me why we treat cyclists and pedestrians as a second class citizen in the urban landscape layout. Education programs haven’t done enough dent to hazards.
    Cars, buses and trucks are way larger and heavier than cyclists and pedestrians, and hence far more dangerous and causing damages. On top of erecting more protected cycle-lanes (at the current rate, it may take another 25-50 years!), why can’t cyclists and pedestrians be given power to report poor driving behaviour, and points will be automatically deducted.

    1. Points automatically deducted for reports by citizens. Ahhhhh I can’t see how that system would be totally abused on day 1.
      Seperation of traffic is the priority, and the introduction of slow neighborhoods.

        1. Hm I see. That one looks like it wasn’t supposed to be open for cars at all.

          Maybe the guy with the bollards called in sick when it was built.

      1. Actually, being a 30 year old millenial myself, we were the last generation of kids who cycled regularly to school. It floors me when there are people treating the most vulnerable on the road in the manner mentioned in this post.

      2. Almost all of the violence I receive while cycling is from people over 40. The other day I had a skip bin driver run me off the road next to a 20mm containment kerb. I slammed to a stop at the kerb and he passed with about 5cm of clearance. I have no doubt he was attempting to injure me, but the police just aren’t interested.

  3. I wrote to Mark Hannan on Sunday with a suggestion for a media release that is actually aligned with Vision Zero.

    Trouble is, Hannan can’t include my suggested ‘statements’ about what Auckland Transport ‘will be rolling out’ because they’re not rolling these measures out. The rot at the top is preventing the action needed to follow Vision Zero.

  4. 9% by 2050 is an underwhelming target when 58% of all JTW and JTE trips are less than 5km and 77% are less than 10km.

    1. Yes, it is underwhelming. And underselling the potential of cycling leads to under-investment in the infrastructure required to make it safe.

      But interestingly, AT have responded to Council’s plan with their own emissions reduction diagram which shows cycling contributing even less! AT management think cycling is a disease, I think.

      The All Aboard! campaign has taken AT’s “beg the government, cos we can’t do much” plan and fixed it… You can see the two versions here: https://twitter.com/all_aboard_akl/status/1334596262973169664

      1. The cynic in me says that AT are worried that active mode improvements are so cost effective they’ll lose the money tap for big roading projects. Would also explain why they strap most cycling projects with millions in streetscape improvements and don’t chase quick wins.

        1. Nah, the senior executives just don’t like it, rationalise this dislike as cycling not being a serious transport mode. Will argue it can’t grow, which is likely self-fulfilling as they won’t do the one thing proven to enable growth; build a viable network.

          The eager jump to supersize Matakana link road to four lanes when it only leads to a two lane road, despite them being in such a financial crisis, that the project to separate the existing well used, but inadequate, commuter cycling route from primary school kids trying to walk to school, is delayed again, shows what they value.

          That one is for the kids, not even really for bike users. Telling, eh.

          sad.

  5. From Glenfield road down through Wairau and along to Taharoto really is a nightmare for cycling even if you’re feeling brave, fast and have a howling tailwind so you can blaze along at car like speeds.

    The cycle lane along Taharoto past the Z station is particularly narrow, I move to the ‘car lane edge’ to try and stop cars intruding into the bike lane and often it makes cars too nervous to pass even though I’m still in the bike lane. And I always take the first left at Rangatira to get off Taharoto asap.

    For an area that has three large secondary schools (Westlake boys/girls & Carmel) with well over 5000 students in those schools it’s appalling. Then there are 3 other primary/intermediates (Milford/Takpuna primary/intermediate) in the vicinity as well.

    1. Not to mention North Shore Hospital is a massive employer, and so are the businesses at Smales Farm – which happens to connect to some excellent public transport.

      The “shared paths” in the area are a joke, and unusable during school traffic hours when the footpaths are full of pedestrians (which is entirely sensible).

      The roads here are -so- wide, there’s more than enough space for proper, separated infrastructure – and that is the obvious compliment for the soon-to-be Northern Pathway which Waka Kotahi will fund.

    2. There is an easy way to determine the minimum width of a bike lane. The combined bike lane + car lane must be wide enough for a car to safely pass a bicyclist. Sounds obvious but I’m pretty sure the lanes on Glenfield Road and Taharoto Road fail that test.

  6. “Henk is a keen cyclist … But almost every time he gets on the road he experiences some form of aggression.”

    There’s absolutely no justification for anyone cycling to be receiving aggression from any car user – but it has to be said, this is an unusual reaction in my experience. I don’t get aggression from car drivers. I wonder why it is that poor Henk is getting picked on so badly?

    1. Keep in mind the article was in the nuzlnd hrld AH. Like they say – friends don’t let friends read the Herald.

      I’d say he’s not too far off the mark though, my saying is ‘there is always one’, and most of the time ‘there is always one’.

      I can also imagine a young kid getting picked on more than a grown adult that is prepared to stand thier ground rather than carry on and not say anything given they know they’ll almost certainly end up worse off.

    2. I’ve been discussing this with various people. Some others experience this too. It might come down to particular roads, or particular types of roads?

      Not sure it’s worth studying – As research shows, there’s no more research into how we make cycling safe needed. We know how to roll out safe cycling. We just need to do it. If driver aggression continues in that context, then we address it.

      1. I don’t know all your demographics, but I would suspect that young males are more readily subjected to abuse, and in my experience it comes almost exclusively from other males aged 30-50.

        An aspect of behavioural psychology, perhaps, establishing a social hierarchy?

        1. In my experience the demographic noted above (M30-50), feel pretty bolshy when they’re in their metal box but when they hop out to back up their puff, they find out pretty swiftly that they’re actually just full of hot air.
          So that works for me as a fit guy in his 40s, cos I can stand my ground, but for more vulnerable individuals it would be pretty frightening.
          But selfish/aggressive driving happens around me every. single. day. And I’m usually out with my 4yo on the back.
          Protected cycling infrastructure needed now.

        2. I get aggression from car drivers – not regularly but often enough to be scary and annoying – and I’m a lady, so I’m not sure gender is the issue

      2. Probably a combination of things. There are differences between areas. I haven’t seen bad aggression in Birkdale. While the area around Smales farm can be scary even in a small car.

        Late at night is probably also bad, but if you’re going out on Friday evening, that’s when you’ll be going home.

        And pushbike vs. electric bikes. At intersections on an e-bike, you can avoid a lot of awkward situations by being fast enough.

        A salient detail in the NZH article is where it happened — Lake Pupuke drive is a quiet back street. So probably a case of knocking over a cyclist just for the fun of it.

        It also means the talk of protected bike lanes is meaningless. Protected lanes go on arterials, not on these small streets.

      3. I suspect one aspect is riders that correctly “own the road” will perhaps get the agro more especially if they are slower (maybe it’s uphill or they are less fit etc). This combined with a longer wait for the car behind to get past as there are no opportunities to do so. Actually if you are really slow it can be easier for them to wait a bit and pass you as it an be done quickly.

        I will tend to let cars past if I feel it’s likely to get them agro, having to go with the vibe a bit from the sound, speed of the car approaching from behind and where I am (location, type of road, how far to the intersection to stop at etc). This is near impossible if it’s really windy or you are going fast down a hill so you can’t hear properly. Also I probably look behind which isn’t that good on the neck to be quite honest.
        So really it’s all quite hard work on the brain to do this, not really a good way to ride and if you are tired would be easy to make mistakes. I most of the drivers pretty good, often better than I expect, but only takes a couple not to be to have an accident etc of course.

    3. I think less than 5% of drivers display this behaviour in my experience. Sometimes it feels like you meet the whole 5% all in one day. I can go months without an incident then get a spate of them over a few days.

      1. You may be right with your estimate – unfortunately it still means out of every 100 cars that pass you as a bike rider 5 drivers will act aggressive or threatening around you.

    4. Yes, not disputing that this is his experience, but I must say I amost never experience aggression from motorists. Maybe once every year. I actually find most motorists very considerate and they seem to have my safety in mind. When I am riding with my daughter, people are downright cautious and give me heaps of space.

      Some may do things that I think are a little impatient, like overtaking on narrow roads when waiting another 20 seconds would have solved it. But that is more them risking their own lives than being aggressive to me.

      Anecdotally, people feel more able to criticise women with children on bikes. Especially other women who “know better”.

  7. There is a term for this
    It is called Dereliction of Duty by Shane his Executive Managers
    It is Poor Governance from the Board of Directors in not enforcing their side of the SOI
    If is extremely bad Governance from Goff and the Councillors for allowing such a pitiful SOI target to be cowritten and signed off. It is equally as bad Goff’s Appointments Committee does little in having Directors with 21st Century Transport Nous.

    So plenty of blame to be portioned and not just at Shane (who will leave a failed legacy in implementing Vision Zero)

  8. Auckland does not have the funding for a full network of separated cycling lanes. Many existing ones are so poorly maintained that they are unusable. The imperatives to change are very clear but the political will to change is far less obvious. Auckland Transport is simply a tool of local Government – it will take strong national and local aligned political agendas to shift to achieve the goal of a safe and welcoming City to cycle in. For now cyclists would be wise to upskill and take the initiative – you are a vehicle and entitled to be on the road – get the skills from the free AT courses and take safe lane positions. Do not be apologetic and work with local boards to deliver change.

    1. Auckland does have the funding. It’s just being misspent on Matakana Link Rd, Penlink, Mill Rd, widening SH1 and all the supporting growth roads blogged about yesterday.

      Do you mean Auckland Council / Auckland Transport specifically? They have been part of these more roads decisions. They are to blame as much as anyone.

      At the launch of the Climate Plan tonight, I’m (not) expecting to see the reallocation of funds away from these emissions-inducing projects to the safety and cycling projects we deserve.

      1. Christopher and Brent, yes that’s why I pointed out that AC / AT have been part of these more road decisions. AC have created the stupid Auckland Development Strategy in the first place which calls for the sprawl roads. AT haven’t argued, as they should, against them on the basis of the traffic they’ll induce. Together, they have directly advocated for some of them to be brought forward.

    1. 100% – sadly police have little time or are never in the right place at the right time.
      I got tooted at aggressively, and the driver was inching closer and closer to me last week at a ‘turning traffic give way to pedestrian’ signal when I was crossing the road with my child in the stroller.
      As said above by others. The mental change that happens to so many people when they hop in the car to drive somewhere, immediate aggression, frustration, and anger is really odd.

      1. Just too many cases I know where the police have not taken action against aggressive use of a car, despite evidence and even admission by the driver.

  9. There’s still nuance when it comes to painted lanes.

    The problem of parked cars is not solved by protecting the bike lanes. We could observe that on Nelson Street. As long as people know they can park in bike lanes and get away with it they will do it. And the thing about bike lanes is you still need to be able to go from your home to the bike lane across the street. This is an enforcement problem, not an infrastructure problem.

    The bike lanes on Lake Road and Taharoto Road are also rather different. The one on Taharoto Road is narrow, and it sits on a very busy road. It amounts to little more than virtue signalling.

    Whereas Lake Road is considerably smaller and probably a bit slower, and the painted bike lane is at least wide enough. It is mostly fine. Add a few bollards where the roundabout is. The worst flaw IMO, also visible in the picture, it is the build-outs at the zebra crossings. I think AT should leave it until road maintenance rolls along, then reinstate it as a proper lane, there’s still plenty of other places where you get nothing at all.

    1. Back in the day there was a debate about how to reduce the crossing width at zebra crossings to make them safer. The choice was kerb projections on either side or a median island in the middle. The kerb projections won as it gave pedestrians and drivers a better view of each other and it allowed crossings to be marked without any centreline. That meant cars on either approach had to stop for a pedestrian regardless of where they were on the crossing. with an island the driver only had to stop when they were on that side.

      1. Yeah that sounds about right. But I don’t understand why the green paint doesn’t continue around that projection. That would make it much more visible to drivers that you have to swerve there as a cyclist.

        1. In Aussie, there is a gap between the island and the footpath painted green for cyclists. Why can’t we have those here?

        2. Ironically, that’s one of the better ones at Northcote. Many others are placed so they regularly get the bypasses blocked by parked cars, or require you to “reclaim” the lane after the bypass.

        3. Unless the road is slow enough, I hate the kerb projections as you are squeezed into the faster traffic. This is really bad on wider faster roads. I thought Bike Auckland *hated* these as well as it provided little benefit to the people crossing as well?

          Hate this spot near me: https://goo.gl/maps/3Nmhht8fzRZgdx296 Cars accelerate as the approach coming up the hill or in the other direction they do also.

  10. As a lifelong cyclist – and still alive – I look at those photos of the roads and think there is no way I would pedal along there. When one gets used to protected shared paths or dedicated cycle tracks unprotected areas start looking very dangerous.

  11. It’s so very disappointing how little cycling is being built. Even in areas where NZTA are building safe cycle lanes AT are not building connections to allow people to get there. eg the Northern Corridor where NZTA is right now building a path alongside SH1 from Oteha to Constellation and up SH18. AT has not built safe connections to this, despite over 3000 people signing a petition for safe cycle routes along Oteha Valley Road.

    1. I presented that petition to AT. AT’s basic response was that they weren’t going to do anything different on Oteha Valley Rd, other than a single band-aid set of lights and a little green paint. It is disappointing that human life seems to mean so little to the people who run AT. Something at AT is broken. It is deeply frustrating.

      1. Oteha valley rd is a state highway so it’s nothing to do with AT …. but you would think AT would be pushing for cycle lanes to their transport hub…..

        1. That’s news to me, which State Highway number is it?

          I’m pretty sure you’ll find it’s a local road.

        2. Oteha Valley Road is not a state highway. You may be thinking of Albany Expressway which *was* a state highway until about 10 or so years ago.

  12. I have recently converted my partner to cycling, but there is no way,she will ride on the road .We have the bizarre situation, where the bikes are loaded onto the back of the car, to get to the safe biking,go figure

    1. Sounds like the UK. People *love* to cycle and will gladly go through the rigmarole of loading a vehicle with bicycles and driving often-considerable distances to ride somewhere safe.

      1. I certainly feel safer hammering down a trail at Woodhill, my safety is entirely my own responsibility. Trees don’t text and drive.

        My commute from New Lynn to CBD is thankfully 90% on shared paths (Waterview, NW, Nelson) but I have recently started avoiding Blockhouse Bay Road and Wolverton Street due to some run ins with aggressive drivers.

        A trucker literally threatened to deliberately run me over while I was waiting at a red light on Blockhouse Bay road. I’ve been cycle commuting for 25 years and that is the nastiest experience I’ve ever had.

        1. Chris, I’ve had several run ins with trucks over the years (one sounding surprsingly similar to yours). Each time I’ve called the company involved, and to put it mildly, they’ve been seriously unimpressed with thier drivers behaviour/attitude.

          Without doubt those drivers involved would be spoken to and told to up their game or else.

          Trucking companies take that kind of thing seriously whether you’re in a car or on a bike.

    1. Overnight? No.
      Less than a decade with the right combination of politics and economics? Yes.

      See: ‘How The Dutch Got Their Cycling Infrastructure’. Really good video and post: https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/how-the-dutch-got-their-cycling-infrastructure/

      “Road building traditions go back a long way and they are influenced by many factors. But the way Dutch streets and roads are built today is largely the result of deliberate political decisions in the 1970s to turn away from the car-centric policies of the prosperous postwar era. Changed ideas about mobility, safer and more livable cities and about the environment led to a new type of streets in the Netherlands.”

      It’s about widespread understanding of what streets can and should be.

      “Getting the people who take decisions and those who have to draw plans for the streets to adopt the new ideas: that is where the real change started”

    2. Optimistic, most decisions that would make a real difference don’t happen because of their ‘impact on the network’.

      Reversing 60 years of roading dedicated to cars can happen quickly when there is a willingness to make the changes.

      1. Heidi, change is afoot!
        From “Our Auckland” …………

        “Takapuna is a step closer to having the distinctive connected and thriving town centre it deserves, against the backdrop of Auckland’s best urban beach.”

        So what is this wonderful change? Laneways? A cycle lane? A connected walking route across the old car park?

        Hell no. When AT has just announced the plan is to decrease traffic by 12% using congestion pricing they have just completed a 450 space parking building. How will this help?

        I’m not feeling the connectedness.

  13. Well, when you have zero support from the mayor when the mob comes out and things hit the fan, what do you expect? No engineer is going to bother with that trouble.

    1. They’re just local route numbers, actual State Highway 29 runs between Mt Maunganui and Piarere in the Waikato via the Kaimais.

  14. Sorry, off topic but can anyone tell me when the eastern line is supposed to be back to normal journey times?
    Following the Kiwirail works. I can’t find anything on the AT website.

  15. The video is very good, thanks. It also shows up Mark Hannan’s statement to the media as quite irresponsible.

    How does it work at Auckland Transport? Presumably if the communications people talk directly with media, they’ve had training with materials like these videos? And in all the different aspects of transport they’re likely to need to talk about? Have they had training from the safety team, for example?

  16. A compulsory piece of gear for all cyclists should be a helmet cam. That way they can back up their claims to the police, and if need be download the video to Facebook. I know there have been a lot of adverse comments here about greenfield developments, but at least they come with cycleways or shared paths so the kids can ride to school in safety.

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